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Mare Cognitum > Solar Paroxysm > Reviews
Mare Cognitum - Solar Paroxysm

Solid black metal - 75%

Paganbasque, November 12th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Extraconscious Records (Bandcamp)

In few subgenres there are as many cases of solo projects as atmospheric black metal, and most of the times, these solo projects are better than actual bands. This can happen, maybe because the artistic vision of its creator is presented in its purest form, which is a key element to create music that touches our soul, even if technically it could be more complex or enriched by different points of view. The feeling is strong in these projects and black metal is a genre, where the feeling is particularly important. Ten years ago, it was created one of those projects in California, under the moniker Mare Cognitum. Its creator, Jacob Buczarski, has been quite active as he released splits and five full lengths, always with a solid level of performance which has given to this project a certain respect in the underground.

'Solar Paroxysm' is the newest offer by Mare Cognitum and it presents five long tracks, clocking each one of them around ten minutes. Stylistically, this album is a perfect example of black metal with an atmospheric touch, where the guitars play a key role. You won´t find here predominant keys as the guitars are responsible of creating both the most brutal and fastest sections of Mare Cognitum’s music, and also the most atmospheric sections. The album opener "Antaresian" shows a nice work with the guitars. They sound absolutely sharpy, yet with an intense emotional touch, creating a very addictive song, although the pace is quite intense in its eleven minutes of existence. The album gets more brutal with the subsequent track "Frozen Star Divinization", where the riffs lose the emotional touch in favour of extremer and biting touch. This initial part shows compositions with a relentless pace, predominantly furious and with a fast pace, that maybe would welcome a greater variety in terms of speed. A nice example of this expected diversity its exemplified in the third composition, entitled "Terra Requiem". This song has clearly a greater atmospheric touch with some excellent riffs, the tremolo guitars sound in this track beautiful as they create a hypnotic atmosphere. It also helps the fact that the song has in a great part of its structure, a much slower pace, where this type of riffs can shine more. It is also interesting to listen to how the song abruptly changes its pace as it has a very intense and fast final section, which I especially enjoy. The contrast between slow atmospheric parts and the furious black metal trademark, yet atmospheric, speed is always great ingredient when it is done right, like in this occasion. The final part of the album brings back the blast-beats and the furious guitars. In any case, the riffing is quite good and though the songs can lack some variety in terms of pace in certain moments, the guitars compensate this weaker aspect of the compositions, with an excellent performance. The riffing is very well elaborated and executed with plenty of intense melodies, which make the songs captivating. Just give a listen to the last song "Ataraxia Tunnels", which has excellent melodies and a very intense final part, where different layers of guitars create a brilliant ending.

'Solar Paroxysm' is, in conclusion, not a game-changer, but a quite solid album of black metal with an intense atmospheric touch, where the strongest aspect is the excellent guitar work which always leads the compositions, reining above any other instrument.

Originally written for ""

The vastness of space... in both its wonder and its horror. - 83%

Necro44, April 4th, 2021

I’ve long been fascinated with records that explore the sounds of space from an extreme metal point of view. There’s an inherent excitement to basking in an expansive atmosphere while being bombarded by aggressive guitar work and pummeling blastbeats, as bands like Blood Incantation and Mithras have definitely proven. No matter how intense the music gets, there’s something strangely soothing and dreamlike about it; it’s almost as if the music could threaten to become background noise if you’re not paying enough attention. But much like the aforementioned bands, Mare Cognitum - consisting only of California native Jacob Buczarski - brings just the right amount of musical variety and neat embellishments to (mostly) avoid the pitfall of overt repetition. The fact that Solar Paroxysm has no song under 10 minutes might seem like a doozy, but believe me: this album flies by very quickly.

Every song here is a mini-epic rife with the tropes you’d typically hear from a progressive/atmospheric black metal project: long tremolo-picked passages, layered wall-of-sound instrumentation for that “vast” soundscape, and of course the harsh shrieks to top it all off. There’s a remarkable sense of progression in these tracks despite the album’s often long-winded nature, largely due to the fact that most of them come from a similar beginning. The majority of the tracks kick off with a familiar tremolo/blastbeat-driven base, and while that does make the intros a tad predictable, it allows Buczarski to use them as a launching pad to fly off in whatever direction he sees fit. Opener “Antaresian” opts to settle into what I could consider a “funeral waltz” using increasingly progressive 3/4 and 6/8 chugs before climaxing with a beautifully melancholic solo; meanwhile, “Frozen Star Divinization” is a long showcase of mesmerizing tremolo guitar harmonies, almost as if they’re locked in a never-ending duel in the middle of a wintry tundra. “Luminous Accretion” is probably the most technical song on offer, constantly shifting tempos and riff patterns while giving the drums a serious workout; finally, “Ataraxia Tunnels” is probably the most traditionally black metal-oriented track here while maintaining the sense of atmosphere that defines the rest of the album.

“Terra Requiem”, however, doesn’t fit quite as nicely on a stylistic level… and that’s because it’s the best song on the record. Most of it is played at a snail’s pace and really gets at the heart of this record’s dark take on a cosmic sound. The tremolo harmonies and double bass drumming are still prevalent here, just used to color a more funereal and despair-filled picture. Everything comes together beautifully in the middle of the song, as the keyboards soar above the melodic guitar solo; it strikes a brilliant balance between awe and hopelessness that I haven’t heard in quite some time. Speaking of the “picture”, the lyrics of Solar Paroxysm are very appropriate to the music as well. It’s your typical vaguely space-y imagery, but there are some pretty cool stanzas I’ll single out. Check out these ones from “Luminous Accretion”:

“Corporeal fractures
Essence separates
Violent transposition
Self-observed from above, lingering

Communicants, wretched spires
Materialize, surround, engulf
Great tongues through which
Creations are spoken (and thus conceived)”

Or these ones from “Terra Requiem”:

“The last leaves have fallen
The last vine has withered
The ocean has boiled for so long
Choking our breath with fetid steam

We claw for shelter from the heartless sun
Which cracks our skin and dries our wells
So great is the debt we have incurred
So too will we wilt and fade into dust”

Again, pretty vague and hard to decipher, but the imagery itself really fits the sound of the album so I don’t mind in the slightest.

Whether or not you will enjoy Solar Paroxysm will probably depend on your tolerance for the familiar tropes Mare Cognitum often employs to flesh out his sound. It’s true that nothing on this album breaks much new ground for atmospheric black metal, but the quality lies in how it’s executed here. The songs, while often starting the same, eventually lead us to incredibly neat locales by the time they’re done because of Buczarski’s adventurousness with this well-worn genre. Solar Paroxysm is my first experience with Mare Cognitum, and it looks like I have one hell of a back catalogue ahead of me if this album’s any indication.